From Sunday, Auckland Transport are making a large number of changes to many public transport services around Auckland. These changes are a mixed bag, some routes will see additional services added, such as more ferry sailings to Hobsonville Point, while other services are being reduced or cut entirely, though as I pointed out when it was announced last year, that’s not always a bad thing as many are expensive to operate, peak only services.

One of the more important changes is the splitting up of the 380 bus between Onehunga and Manukau via the Airport. This will see the Onehunga to airport section become the frequent 38. Meanwhile, the airport to Manukau section will become known as the Airport Link and once the awesome new Puhinui interchange is completed, will shift using it, instead of going via Papatoetoe. It will also make use of the new bus lanes being added to

The Airport Link will exclusively use electric buses and yesterday AT launched them.

Today Auckland Transport (AT), together with Auckland Airport and Waka Kotahi, introduced South Auckland’s first fully electric bus service. This marks the second electric fleet launch for the Auckland region – following the Waiheke electric vehicle launch in 2020.

The new AirportLink service, which will run from Sunday 24 January, will provide key transport connections between Manukau and Auckland Airport, via Papatoetoe. When the Puhinui Station Interchange opens in June, the service will travel along a more direct route along bus priority lanes.

The project is an early improvement from the Southwest Gateway Programme, which will provide safer and more reliable travel choices to move around south and east Auckland. Operated by Go Bus, the nine buses for the new AirportLink service have been built by Yutong, with supply and support from JW Group.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “as well as making it faster and more convenient to travel to the Airport and its employment precinct, once the new Puhinui Station Interchange opens in June, the new fully electric AirportLink fleet will help reduce carbon emissions from Auckland’s transport network – contributing towards achieving our climate change goals.

“Transport accounts for more than 40 per cent of Auckland’s carbon emissions, so it’s important that we provide emissions-free options as part of our commitment to respond to climate change.” Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board Chair Lotu Fuli says the fleet is another step towards safer and more reliable travel choices in South and East Auckland. “Working towards a low-emissions public transport network and providing alternatives to private vehicles is an essential part of reducing our impact on global warming and heading off a climate change disaster.”

Chair of AT’s board of directors, Adrienne Young-Cooper, says AT’s recent trials proved that the new electric buses can operate for a full shift on a single charge, while providing an improved customer experience. “AT’s commitment to not procuring diesel buses from 2025 is complemented by our Low Emission Bus Roadmap. This commits to transitioning the entire public transport bus fleet from diesel to low emission (electric and hydrogen) by 2040.”

“This new fleet has been designed specifically for those connecting to and from Auckland Airport, so there is dedicated luggage space for travellers. There is also modified priority seating areas, improving customer safety.”

In even better news, it also seems that AT now want to speed up the introduction of electric buses with Newsroom reporting yesterday that effectively from now there will be no more new diesel buses purchased in Auckland.

Public transport operators are being told to not buy any more diesel buses or risk losing their council contracts, as Auckland Transport brings forward its plans to completely electrify its network by a whole decade.

The Council had previously committed its transport organisation to stop funding new diesel buses from 2025, and to phase out all the existing ones by 2040 – but its subsidiary has now brought that forward to 2030 – subject to Council funding.

Darek Koper, Auckland Transport’s head of bus services, said that completing the transition by 2030 would reduce Auckland’s transport carbon emissions to just over 10 percent of the 93,000 tonnes they were emitting in 2019 – an 80,000 tonne reduction. It would reduce noise pollution, and improve air quality – especially in the CBD – with zero tailpipe emissions.

That would bring with it a $166 million reduction in social costs, from pollution and poor health.

…..

Last night, Phil Goff told Newsroom the council intended to budget to replace the diesels that make up most of the city’s 1352-bus fleet; already, the Government has pledged funding. He said Auckland Transport would not fund any new diesel buses from July (though it is understood the transport organisation is telling bus operators to stop buying diesel vehicles right now).

It was Goff who signed Auckland up to the Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration at the Paris C40 meeting in 2017, setting targets that seem less ambitious now than they did at the time. “With the increasing knowledge we have of carbon emissions and the impact of climate change – scientists now telling us we’ve got less than a decade to fix the problem – I wanted to improve on that by bringing forward the goal of no further purchase of carbon-emitting vehicles from 2025 to 2021.”

He is not yet ready to commit to funding Auckland Transport’s goal to completely phase out the diesel buses by 2030, though.

…..

Darek Koper said the existing contracts with bus operators required about $360 million this year to run bus services. That annual operational cost would need to progressively increase by up to $27 million annually by 2027, to cover the more expensive technology and 2.6 percent annual fleet growth. But after that, it would drop as the cost of operating services with electric buses is expected to start dropping below that of diesel buses.

This is great news and speeding up the rollout is exactly what AT should be doing. Not only are electric buses better for the environment, they’re also much nicer to ride on because of how quiet they are. Great work Darek in getting it to this point. Let’s hope the council and government come through with the funding needed to achieve this.

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61 comments

  1. Have they got a source for electric double-deckers for Dom Road/NX etc?

    Also, there’s never much talk about the practicalities of charging although the Newsroom article mentions buses coming back after a day with plenty of charge. Do they just charge overnight, or frequently for short bursts at end of route turn around etc?

    1. One of the few areas where lower off-peak service numbers could help. If some buses (and of course drivers) are returning to the depot anyway during the middle of the day… of course it would still be best if there’s enough charge for a whole day’s driving. Tho that would be a rather impressive endurance, I’d think?

    2. They’re at the point where they can just charge overnight, range is over 500km on some models.

      Double deckers are available, Wellington runs them.

    3. Wellington runs electric double deckers at the moment, slightly smaller four axle buses than the diesel double deckers. After a few teething issues they seem to have got the charging issues sorted and if they can manage Wellington’s hills I am sure they could handle most Auckland routes 🙂 They do cost around $1million each at present thought costs are falling significantly each year.

    4. There are double decker options if you enjoy no Air Conditioning, otherwise don’t count on it for another 5 years.

      1. Bring back opening windows ! That’s what everyone should be doing anyway – fresh air is better for you than sitting in a sealed box.

        1. Nah, good riddance to opening windows and having some seated two rows ahead deciding how much breeze you get on your face.

  2. It will be good when the fleet of electric buses are taking passengers to fleets of electric planes or, in the shorter term, to those electric fast trains linking Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

    1. I don’t think we will ever see electric planes as commonplace unless battery efficiency takes another big leap forward. Batteries can be quite compact but they are still rather heavy for the energy levels they contain, so not that useful for planes.

      1. Yes and no. While batteries are heavier and take up more space than Jet A1, a new electric plane doesn’t have to be built with the same limitations as current aircraft. So for example you can design an aircraft with larger wings to produce more lift. Other advices have been made with things like folding wingtips too.
        We’re talking about domestic aircraft here. International aircraft with the greater distances required is a whole different proposition.

        1. I agree. Electric planes for short haul will be viable for the reasons Realist sets out. The aerodynamic advantages and weight savings related to the way an electric plan can be designed partially offset the weight of the batteries. Also, maintenance costs should be much less. Expect to be flying regionally in NZ on electric planes well before 2050.

        2. Lufthansa did some research on this. An A320neo would only fly for 20 minutes at the same take off weight it would have for a 4.5 hour flight on aviation fuel. More of a problem is that the same aircraft would need 72kgs of batteries to give the same energy as 1kg of Jet Fuel.
          It’s never going to happen.
          What we are going to see a lot more is synthetic aviation fuel. This is being made right now from bio waste and residues, but in the near future will also be made from P2X.

      2. Fuel weight not needed must help a lot. From memory They Already have a real local service of electric planes in some Scandinavian country. I think Norway.

        1. It’s Harbour Air in Vancouver. We’d be lucky if we see electric planes on routes like AKL-GBZ or WLG-NSN within the next decade or so, let alone anything over 500 km.

          Your fuel load lightens as you burn it, whereas batteries stay the same weight no matter what.

        2. Harbour air has a small fleet of four-seater electric float planes that do little hops around the straits of Vancouver.

          It’s a start but still a big step to go from that to a regional airliner.

        3. That got me wondering – are Batteries heavier than avgas? The thing about burning hydrocarbons in liquid form is that they hold a massive amount of potential energy per kg and yet don’t weigh that much (0.72 kg/l), compared with metal-based batteries.

          Its a bit hard to find out any accurate figures for battery weight – obviously the old lead/acid batteries were considerably heavier, but most battery technology these days uses things like lithium ions which means lithium (weight listed on Wikipedia as 0.534 g/cm3 ie presumably 0.53 kg/l), but other metal technologies will be much heavier, while packing less punch than the avgas.

  3. Sorry off topic, but does anyone have any idea when the eastern line is projected to be back to normal journey times? Still chugging along…

    1. I think it is now, 10 minute frequencies at peak. I took it this morning.
      Its terminating at Britomart now too.

      1. I think it is now, 10 minute frequencies at peak. I took it this morning.
        Its terminating at Britomart now too. Also, it seems to be fast heading to the city at least. You do get the odd slower train heading to wards Panmure too but not as often as before.

        1. A debacle. I heard today though that it’s all supposed to be back to normal from 8 February.
          The comms are appalling, maybe because it’s Kiwirail doing the work?

  4. Auckland Transport is also going to merge the former staff shuttle from Henderson to the CBD with AT Local in Devonport. In future there will be an on-demand service from anywhere in Devonport to the ferry, but only for AT staff will be eligible.

    1. “Auckland Transport is also going to merge the former staff shuttle from Henderson to the CBD”

      Err no. The Henderson to CBD shuttle ended years ago. AT now longer has staff at the old council building offices in Henderson. The Devonport AT Local on-demand trial has ended.

  5. Electric buses should also reduce (albeit not quite remove…) concerns like that from my former resident’s association (Grafton) – who wanted to reduce the number of buses along Park Road due to noise and fume concerns. Something I opposed, but they do have a partial case, that old-style buses aren’t very pleasant to be around, even if they still were good for the city overall.

    1. I remember reading some newsletter from that association which stated they opposed double decker buses because of privacy concerns; people on the top deck could see into houses. Idiots.

  6. I think we will need a station staff at Puhinui to sell Hop cards and at the Airport as well. Maybe there will be a shop or coffee food outlet which could sell them.
    After Puhinui station opens there will be a gap in service as the Airport Link will travel on Puhinui road and St George Street and Carruth Road will have none. The 349 rail replacement bus from Papatoetoe station to Puhinui Station could be rerouted to fill in this gap. I am looking forward to travelling in the electric buses may take a ride on one on Sunday.

      1. Maybe the Airport could just be treated as a stop on the train network. So a standard Hop ticketing machine could be installed there. So travellers could buy a paper ticket there for any stop. Then a causal traveller needn’t buy a HOP card that he or she won’t get much use of.

        1. This is one of my pet hates that I would like to see improved.

          Tourists (New Zealander and internationals when they come back) should be encouraged to get a Hop card, but seems like no effort is made.

          In Melbourne for instance you can get myki card for about $6. They also have ‘explorer’ options; you can pick up a card loaded with unlimited travel for 1 day.

          Instead I used to see cruise ship passengers doing the Devonport visit and on return to the Auckland ferry terminal, a stream of them trying to exit via the Hop card only gates with their paper tickets.

          If I was a HOP card product owner, I would target new arrivals into Auckland with a HOP card deal; pick up one at the airport or when your cruise ship docks, and you can hop on and off trains, buses, ferries around Auckland for the day. Maybe even have some collection boxes, so once you leave town, you can drop your (used) card off to be reused. Seems like an obvious idea to encourage PT use; it would quickly become a recommended tip for visitors to Auckland on sites like TripAdvisor

        2. Although I am not certain the paper ticketing on the Devonport service is not AT’s as due to the Fullers PTOM exclusion legislation on this route the cash fare is paid directly to Fullers. Remove the exemption then the ticketing can be sorted.

        3. “Maybe the Airport could just be treated as a stop on the train network. So a standard Hop ticketing machine could be installed there. So travellers could buy a paper ticket there for any stop. Then a causal traveller needn’t buy a HOP card that he or she won’t get much use of.’

          That is far too simple. This idea would first need to go through AT’s inhouse “Customer Experience unit”, whereby external consultants would run weeks of “innovation sprints” and then create a nice looking set of posters showing how the workshops were conducted.

          The proposal would then go to a senior AT manager/gatekeeper who would say; “there is no budget for this, the visitor can already wander around the Airport looking for somewhere to buy a HOP card.

    1. Once the AirportLInk goes via Puhinui, a new service, the 36 will go from Manukau to Onehunga, via Carruth Road & St George St to Papatoetoe & Mangere

    2. “we will need a station staff at Puhinui to sell Hop cards and at the Airport as well.”

      The convenience store inside the Airport Terminal used to sell HOP cards. Their license expired and it tool months for the AT HOP team to figure out an alternative. You can now buy a HOP card at the AirGo convenience store inside the Domestic Terminal, or The Take Home shop inside the International Terminal

  7. Spotted something interesting on the new Northcote Ferry timetable:

    “On request ferry will stop at Northcote Point. When boarding at the city advise staff if you require to travel to Northcote. If at Northcote Point make yourself visible and signal the ferry crew.

    Having to flag down a ferry sounds incredible, I’m very curious about this setup!

      1. I didn’t know that, and have now seen this video of a request stop in NSW.
        Having some sort of technology makes sense, even as simple as a light or a physical flag/sign like in the video. That’s why I’m wondering about this setup for Northcote Pt, because the wording in that footnote makes it sound like you’ll need to wave frantically until the ferry toots in recognition.

        1. I’ve seen bus drivers miss ‘the arm’ many times and drive on by. They can’t be expected to be watching the passengers continuously and vice versa. Ferries will be the same.

      2. When I was living out in Glen Eden in the early 2000/s , I use to get the ADK/ADL’s into the city on Fri/SAT nights and the Guard use to come through and ask were you where getting off and most nights it was almost a direct trip into the City , and if there was any on the platforms they stopped to pick them up . Most of them were single unit trains .

  8. That airport link bus is pretty disappointing. I was expecting something more like a rubber wheeled tram not just a normal looking 2 axel bus.

    1. Also why are the seats facing forward when this is a fairly short trip and people have bags. Why not seats along the sides with lots of floor space in the middle? They should have made this is much like a train as possible, instead its just a standard cramped bus service.

    2. This is effectively just an interim service evolution from the Airporter while Airport to Botany is still being worked on. Tram-like vehicles coming later.

      Not too shabby if you ask me. AT just needs to really work on improving the customer experience to make the service more appealing to people who default to SkyBus after a long flight.

      The current branded orange shelter was arguably a downgrade from what came before, too many people are still unaware of how good the $5 three-zone trip is on HOP, no translated resources for overseas passengers, etc.

    3. It’s only a relatively short route at the moment. Better to have smaller buses with greater frequency, that’s what users will appreciate the most.

    4. These electric buses will be very heavy especially for only two axles. Okay if the road is smooth but will have to travel slowly over the raised pedestrian platforms. When they did the trial a while back I asked the driver his opinion of them he said they bounced about a bit. He was right they do. He thought they really needed a third axle.

    5. a) like others have said this is the short – medium term solution.
      b) does it really matter that much what they look like?
      c) this route is fairly low volume at the moment, I’m sure it will improve with these upgrades, but I seriously doubt it will be dominion road or even Manakau road levels. It wouldn’t justify larger volume vehicles.

  9. And AT are again removing tth 50A via Ostend after the locals launched a petion to have it reinststed after they started the new timetables . How dumb are they ? . And it stops this weekend . And the way they made it operate was by a loop so you went pass Countdown twice instead of going straight to the ferry wharf .

    1. “after the locals launched a petition”

      Ah the good old petition. Signed by 549 local residents, however only 4.5 people actually used to get off at bus stops along Ostend Road.

      1. and the only decent shelter was across the road from the stop they were using , and it was just an hourly loop . If they had left it the way it was before the timetable changes there wouldn’t be these problems . And coming from the ferry you had to make sure you had the right bus before you asked the driver if he would/could go that way .

  10. This is all very positive & a step up from earlier plans rather than a stepdown like is often the case with our public transport and active mode plans.

  11. Thank you AT and Auckland Council.
    My eBike is patiently waiting for permission to zero carbon me across our harbour bridge.

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